Overwatch Developer Scott Mercer took to the forums Friday to announce some significant changes to how Hero Pools on the live version of Overwatch will work. They will be making two primary changes. First, the characters eligible for the hero rotation will be based solely on Overwatch League (OWL) data. Second, the Hero Pools will only apply to Master and Grandmaster matches.
Huge change to Hero Pools.
— Jonathan Larsson (@Reinforce) May 1, 2020
Starting this weekend Hero Pools will be based only on OWL data. When the Hero Pool feature was first introduced, they utilized a combination of OWL data and high-level ladder game data to determine who was eligible to be rotated out. Mercer explained, “Determining Hero Pools with online data did achieve our goal to increase hero variance in matches, and the point of Hero Pools is NOT to just ban the heroes that some players might dislike or consider overpowered.” The system will switch back to using data from high-level competitive games at the end of the OWL season and resume with the next OWL season.
The second big change coming to the Hero Pool system is that the hero rotation will no longer apply to matches below Master level. This means that if your game’s average SR is below 3500, the Hero Pool will not be active in your match. According to the forum post, the Hero Pool is not necessary to ensure diverse hero picks at lower levels.
“Competitive Play at lower skill tiers already sees a tremendous amount of hero composition diversity in their matches, and we don’t think they need a system like Hero Pools to encourage even more,” Mercer stated in his forum post. “While we all wait for this feature to go live, we’ve decided to temporarily disable Hero Pools from being used in all Competitive Play games. We’ll switch them off next Monday morning, May 4th, when the Hero Pool normally rotates. For the vast majority of our competitive players who are ranked Diamond and below, this brings their upcoming future without Hero Pools to them way more quickly.”
Mercer also indicated that the developers are currently looking at ways to improve the hero rotation algorithm. Their goal is to decrease the probability of “hero rotation ping-pong” whereby the same hero is repeatedly banned because of their popularity. The post didn’t go into detail about what exactly they will be changing in the algorithm, but the adjustment is likely in response to the communities backlash over McCree and Widow being banned together three times in only a short several weeks.
It’s good to see the developers continuing to adapt and improve the Hero Pool feature with time. These changes will improve the Overwatch experience for many lower level players, while also increasing the variance of the meta at higher levels.